Press Coverage: The Working Model of DIY Media

↵Chris Littmann sent me an e-mail last week with a link to CNATI.com and suggested it might be a story worth checking out. I briefly looked at the link and saw that the website, a sport journalism site focused on covering college and pro sports in Cincinnati, decided to raise money to go to Spring Training for the Reds. I've seen this before – websites putting a donation box on the site in hopes of raising some money for their independent news outlet. I've thought about doing it myself, actually. I didn't really think much of Littmann's link at first, until I looked a little more closely to realize ... ↵

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↵It worked. Holy cow, it worked. ↵

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↵Led by former Reds beat writer and radio reporter C. Trent Rosecrans, the site was trying to raise $4,000 to travel to Spring Training (on the cheap) this season. So far, they've raised over $5,100 with nearly a month to go before pitchers and catchers. I asked Rosecrans if he was surprised with the outpouring of donations so far: ↵

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↵⇥Surprised? Try shocked. I'd thought maybe we could get $2,000 in the month-and-half, with $4,000 being the goal. To get to $4,000 in 17 days -- and the 17 days after Christmas to boot! -- well, dumbfounded and humbled is more like it. We now have more than $5,000, which is amazing. ↵
↵Other, more established companies have succeeded with the paid subscription model online. SportsBusiness Daily works primarily off subscriptions. Even someone like Ricky Gervais had a pay-subscription model for his podcasts. I asked Rosecrans if he thought this can become a sustainable model for independent media, or if corporate sponsorship is still the more lucrative model and this was just a last-ditch, throw-your-hands-up effort that ended up working for him? ↵
↵⇥I've been trying corporate sponsorship packages as well, but haven't found a taker (we have those available and would love to have 'em, so if anyone has some corporate sponsorship money burning a hole in their pocket, e-mail me, we'll set you up.) ↵⇥

↵⇥I'd had people saying they were interested in donating to help us out and do a membership level, and figured why not. All along, we've wondered about the NPR/Radiohead model. If it's worth something to people, they'll pay for it. And so far they have. We'll see if it's a one-time deal or it happens again, I'm just not sure. I'd love for corporate sponsors/advertisers to see what we're doing and the level that our readership is involved and realize that our readership is loyal and will speak with their spending dollars. ↵⇥

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↵⇥I just don't know that the paid membership model will work. The only place that has been successful with that is recruiting sites, and we're not as much interested in that as we are in telling the stories of what's going on. So far the response has been incredible -- editorially. It's the other side -- something I've never had any experience in -- that's my biggest worry. I've got to find a way to make some money, to pay rent and put dog food in dishes for my boxer. But, as a reporter, I was left with a choice, complain that there were no jobs or try something. This is me trying something. ↵⇥

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↵Without pulling back the curtain too far, it's rather inspiring to hear Rosecrans say that his choices were to complain about the lack of jobs or try something, and he chose the latter. The problem is, the advertisers don't have the money to spend anymore and aren't willing to throw what little cash they do have left at a still-unknown frontier. The work online is just as good or better as it's ever been in print or over the air – Rosecrans himself is a member of both the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Pro Football Writers of America – but it's going to take a while for the trees be shaken so hard that enough apples fall off and roll all the way down the hill to that collection area next to the bridge we all sleep under, occasionally coming out to grab whatever morsel we can find while undoubtedly scaring children. ↵

↵And even Rosecrans, himself, was quick to point out that CNATI.com is not a blog, but rather a news site, with blogs. ↵

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↵⇥It's a news site with blogs, sure, but it's not just blog. I went to school and got a journalism degree and worked 10 years in newpspaers, worked another in radio/online and now am just online. ESPN.com is online. AOL FanHouse isn't a blog, it's an online news entity, as is Yahoo.com. The lines are blurring, but there's still a difference. To me, CNati.com is different from something like Yahoo! or Sportsline only in terms of scope (ours is more narrow, in Cincinnati) and backing (they've got much, much more money than I do.) You see ESPNDallas, ESPNChicago and all that, well, there's no ESPNCincinnati --yet. Until then, we're trying our best to give more coverage to an underserved market. ↵
↵The simple model has always been this: writers create content which interests readers which entices advertisers to pay the writers to create more content to interest more readers. Rinse, repeat. But now, the content is there and the interest is there but the advertisers aren't as willing to pay. So is the new model in media a truly user-sustained system? Rather than relying on advertisers to target your readers and pay you for the ability, is it sustainable to have an open-pay service – not a subscription service, per se, but more like NPR or public television? Will the entire industry become, in our own way, Wikipedia? ↵

↵Maybe the answer will be at Spring Training. ↵

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↵Because People Like to Say Salsa ↵
↵Nearing halftime in the Cardinals-Saints game on Saturday, Neil Rackers came on to attempt a field goal (the kick he made before a timeout and subsequently missed on the re-try). James Lofton and Dave Sims had a hilarious exchange on Westwood One Radio that was right out of an episode of Seinfeld. After saying the wrong name, Lofton realized he may have made a mistake: ↵

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↵⇥Lofton: Rikers? ↵⇥
↵⇥Sims: Rackers. ↵⇥
↵⇥Lofton: Yes, Rackers. Rikers is the prison. ↵⇥
↵⇥Sims: Yes, you said the prison outside New York City ... up the East River. ↵⇥
↵⇥Lofton: If he misses this kick, they'll want to send him to the prison. ↵
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↵Tonight Show with Mooch? ↵
↵So many people are doing Jay Leno parodies at this point I wouldn't be shocked if Jay Leno himself comes out and does a Jay Leno parody this week. Who knows, it might actually make the show funny for once. Because that's the thing ... being unfunny in the way that Leno is unfunny is actually funny. Jimmy Kimmel was funny as Leno, laughing at his own jokes and being unfunny in the funniest way possible. But nobody I've seen has been as good as Steve Mariucci on NFL Network's pregame show on Saturday: ↵

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↵For a direct Link to NFL Network's video click here. ↵

↵Mooch was spot-on with the Leno laugh and the talking off-camera after each joke (presumably to either Marshall Faulk dressed as Kevin Eubanks or Rich Eisen as Doc Severinsen, whichever is funnier) in an effort to explain how bad the jokes really were. He also got in a cheap Tiger Woods joke about how much the Saints and Cardinals would 'score' and a Sarah Palin joke that was actually pretty funny ("The Colts' backfield reminds me of Sarah Palin -- decent-looking, but probably won't run!"), before the most pointed jab about Pete Carroll going to Seattle, with a direct shot at USC. ↵

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↵⇥"Pete Carroll has agreed to take the coaching job for the Seattle Seahawks. I think he'll do a good job up there, but he'll have to adapt to the NFL again after all those years at SC. For example, this week, Pete found out that NFL players pay for their own cars." ↵
↵For a guy who was rumored to be a person of interest just last week for the head coaching job at USC, that was a salvo, dressed in a wig or not. I'm habitually no fan of the NFL pregame shows with their incessant look-how-much-fun-we're-having guffaws, but this time, I was laughing along them. ↵

↵Media People Are Such Jerks ↵
↵Speaking of the USC job, Spencer Hall had a link on SB Nation on Friday that had video (below) of Tennessee SID Bud Ford negotiating a workable arrangement for exiting coach Lane Kiffin to come in and speak with the UT media before hopping on a plane to go to Southern California. Kiffin wanted some of his remarks to be on TV and others, while on the record, not recorded for television. He also, for a reason that was not explained, did not want any TV to roll live. Per Mr. Swindle: ↵

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↵⇥The producer arguing with [Ford] is from WBIR-10 in Knoxville, the on-camera guy for WBIR-10 is Jim Wogan, and the guy who looks like he’s seconds away from killing himself with irritation is Chris Low of ESPN. They all appear to be arguing about whether to agree to Lane Kiffin’s terms of no live coverage, and it’s way, way more interesting than it deserves to be. ↵
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↵Ah, the good old days of working in an SID office during a coaching change. First, Ford clearly did not handle the situation very well with the "you're in our building, remember that" line. But the producer would not relent and ended up screwing everyone in the room in the process. Two good points were made – first is that Kiffin was technically no longer an employee of the state, so he didn't have to do anything the media asked him to do. It was, in fact, a courtesy. And second, as the video ended, Ford got the last line, "cut your nose off to spite your face, TV. You're cutting your nose off to spite your face." ↵

↵Kiffin then got on a plane and had to deal with the likes of T.J. Simers of the LA Times who seems to relish the 'jerk' role in media punditry a little too much: ↵

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↵⇥At that point it was like talking to one of my daughters, caught doing something wrong and when challenged and having nothing to say, it never stopped them from trying to double-talk their way out of it. ↵⇥

↵⇥The Kid got flustered, waved his hands and began spewing gibberish. If I reproduced a transcript of everything he had to say, it would probably sound like something Garrett said. And since none of it made any sense, I repeated the line of questioning. Again and again. ↵⇥

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↵⇥That's when Garrett moved in to say, "Let's move on," a pretty good indication we'll probably see him in the Trojans' locker room at halftime again when The Kid really appears stumped. ↵⇥

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↵Here's a link to the video of their exchange (about the 1:30 mark) and while it's clear Kiffin didn't handle the situation with grace under fire, he wasn't exactly acting like a teenage girl either. He was just saying 'I just got off a plane, give me some time to figure things out.' Now, obviously that's a terrible answer, but somehow Simers' column made Kiffin – repeatedly calling the coach "The Kid" and ramping up the condescension even for him – seem sympathetic. ↵

↵It wasn't easy to do last week, but if anyone could make you defend Kiffin, the sure bet would have been Simers. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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